Understanding Breast Implant Illness
Learn more about breast implant illness including what it is, studies into the condition and reported symptoms
Written by Medical Quality Officer, David Jones , MPharm
Published: Thursday, 14 July 2022
When considering breast enlargement surgery, it’s important to not only understand the procedure but also know the possible risks and complications before deciding to move ahead with the surgery. Breast implant illness has been a topic of discussion for those considering and those who have already had breast enlargement surgery. It is a complex topic and is difficult to understand. We always recommend discussing any concerns you have with a plastic surgeon experienced in breast enlargements and implants to ensure you have the most up-to-date and correct information. In this article, we discuss what is breast implant illness, address the understandable concerns that patients may have, and where to go for more information.
What is Breast Implant Illness?
Breast Implant llness (BII) is not a medical diagnosis, and studies into the condition have not confirmed that it is a medical disorder. What it is is a collection of symptoms that patients with breast implants attribute to their breast implants. Patients suffering from these symptoms identify as suffering from Breast Implant Illness. It’s unclear how many women suffer from BII or what percentage of patients self-identify as having it, as no study has calculated this. But various worldwide social support groups have more than 150,000 members (although this does not state that all members suffer from BII).
The list of symptoms reported by patients includes but is not limited to:
- Brain fog
- Joint pain
These health problems are, of course, very concerning for those experiencing them. In addition, there have also been patient reports of serious medical conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body (autoimmune disorders). A patient reporting BII can often experience a set of symptoms different to another patient also reporting BII. This is one of the reasons why it can be challenging to pinpoint BII as being caused by breast implants.
Reports of BII by patients to their doctor are not specific to one type of implant. They are not limited to a particular texture of implant (rough or smooth) or linked to shape or brand (BII can occur with any type of breast implant, including silicone gel-filled, saline-filled, smooth surface, textured surface, round, or teardrop-shaped).
When considering breast enlargement surgery, it’s important that all patients are aware of all their options and choose a highly-experienced and BAAPS/BAPRAS-associated surgeon who uses only the highest medical grade implants.
Why isn’t Breast Implant Illness a Medical Condition?
Overall there is a lack of evidence from studies and reports supporting the argument that Breast Implant Illness is a recognised medical condition. Previous studies have shown that there is no significant difference in reporting similar symptoms between those with implants and those without breast implants. Although certain autoimmune disorders may be reported higher in patients with breast implants, due to the small number of patients diagnosed with certain autoimmune disorders generally, it can be difficult to ascertain if this link is real or just chance.
Before a medical product is put onto the market, many tests are in place to ensure that a product is safe, including looking at similar products that have been used for different purposes. Complications can sometimes take a long time to form, which is why products are always subject to long-term monitoring to ensure their continued safety. Silicone breast implants have been used for over 60 years, and they have been improved upon hugely. It is thought that the widespread use of social media has led to an increase in awareness of BII, which could mean more patients are identifying as having breast implant illness.
The symptoms experienced by patients are real and taken seriously by medical practitioners, which is why further research to identify if the cause is from breast implants or other causes is ongoing.
Before your consultation with the surgeon, patients are recommended to write down all their concerns and speak to their surgeon about them openly and honestly if they are considering Breast Augmentation. All our surgeons are registered with BAAPS/BAPRAS, and they are most up-to-date in all research and studies on Breast Implant Illness.
Here are some sources where you can read more:
We always want to support patients in making the best decision for them and ensure the highest levels of care and safety are met. Should you have questions or worries, your Patient Care Adviser is always on hand; and remember, your surgeon is the best person to talk to about any concerns you have, and they will answer your questions candidly.
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